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I am learning to treasure my alone time, even when traveling. There’s always that desire to say, “Oh wow! Look at that!” when I see something spectacular or quirky. However, there’s a peace in alone, and a serenity in quiet. I have also found that spending time alone in a foreign country builds strength and confidence — or perhaps it’s just makes one slightly wacky, which I don’t mind at all.

Today, I enjoyed myself immensely, wandering around Old Shanghai and the Yuyuan Gardens alone. I had visited the gardens with my friends last summer and was eager to get more pictures this year. At first, I was a bit disappointed because some areas were closed off for repairs and because the place was crowded. The throngs of people made it a bit difficult to find a quiet nook to meditate or a scene to photograph. I decided to take a different approach and took pictures of the people and the details of the elaborate carvings and figures on the roofs and walls rather than on larger vistas.

Last year, I took a picture of this famous dragon slithering his way across the top of a wall and got a few shots of him again today.

Legend has it that when this dragon was on the drawing board more than 400 years ago, he had five claws. However, this was viewed as incredible impertinence because the imperial dragon was depicted with four claws (some sources indicate five). Consequently, to avoid the wrath of the emperor (a wise move, I think) the designer lopped of a claw.

What I did not notice last summer, or today until I saw the images on my computer, is that the dragon has a little friend. Now I’m curious.

Why does the dragon have a pearl in his mouth and why is the frog sitting under him, flicking his tongue(s) upward toward the dragon?

I couldn’t find much information on the Internet about this little guy, but it seems that the frog likes the saliva dripping from the dragon’s open mouth, which contains a pearl. The pearl symbolizes wealth and wisdom; therefore, as the frog laps up the saliva, I suppose he is becoming richer and wiser. The frog, himself, symbolizes wealth and immortality. A symbiotic relationship? If anyone has more information, I’d love to hear it.

Tomorrow, I leave Shanghai to being work in Feicheng, in the Shandong Province.